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Local
Light will improve safety

Folks traveling routes 22 and 829 in Henderson Township may have noticed the arrival of the long-awaited traffic light at the intersection this week.

The light comes six years after a comprehensive traffic study of Route 22 was released that determined a traffic light was needed to improve safety at the intersection.

The traffic light is the last component of a construction project that started in April. Overall work involved in the $1.7 million project included tree trimming, repair of a slope failure along Route 22 near Mapleton, the widening of the right-turn radius, traffic signal upgrades and other work as needed.

Lines at the intersection, after paving, were also be repainted so a dedicated left-turn lane was designated for Top’s Diner and Car Wash.

Guiderails and signs were also updated.

Plans for the project were first announced in 2015.

Anthony Scalia, spokesperson for PennDOT District 9, explained there was a slight delay in the actual installation of the traffic lights, as it was scheduled to take place in November.

“The delay occurred because we were waiting for the poles to be delivered by the manufacturer,” he said. “The service has been inspected, and we are currently waiting for the electric company to provide power to the signals.”

Once power has been turned on at the traffic lights, they won’t be fully operational for several days, said Scalia, as he doesn’t know exactly when they will be turned on for use.

“Once power has been installed, the signals will flash for several days before they are set to run on a normal operation,” he said.

Donetta Speck, owner of Speck’s Deli in Henderson Township, said even with the current improvements, she’s anxiously waiting for the traffic lights to be fully operational, as she hopes it will drastically improve safety in the area.

“I want to see how it slows people down, so they will be able to move more freely at the intersection and not be stuck at the stop sign,” she said.

“I know that I lost my entrance (due to curbs) on Route 829, but people don’t want to wait to turn at the intersection, so they use (the Route 22 entrance) and go through the parking lot, but I have an apartment (behind the restaurant), so they shoot through there (on to the side street),” she said. “Hopefully, the lights will alleviate that.”

Rick Walker, owner of Top’s Diner, is also very anxious to see the lights fully operational.

“I know it will be a lot safer to pull in and out,” he said. “We’re just crossing our fingers and hoping that everything works out in a positive manner.”

Walker was initially concerned the curbs added for the project would impede larger vehicles entering his parking lot, but those worries have been eliminated.

“The curbs haven’t impacted the businesses,” he said. “I know that I have to get the parking lot line restriped, but I plan on doing that in the spring. There’s a wide enough area that tractor-trailers, boaters and campers can pull in and out, which was my main concern when the project started.”


Local
Former EMA director is MU borough manager, police chief

After some months of investigating the feasibility of engaging the services of a borough manager and adding another officer to the police department roster, Mount Union Borough Council Wednesday filled both needs with one hire.

In a 5-4 decision, council gave tentative approval to Adam Miller to serve as borough manager and chief of police, effective Jan. 2, at a salary of $45,000.

Gary Kuklo, who chairs council’s finance committee, said the 2019 budget, which was also approved Wednesday, does support the agreed upon salary.

Miller served as Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency director from 2005 to 2013 and is the founder and CEO of GoDEZI, a local shuttle and transportation service.

A Mount Union resident for the past two years, Miller also serves as a deputy with the Huntingdon County Sheriff’s Department and as a county detective through the district attorney’s office. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership, both from Juniata College.

Miller said will will give “10,000 percent” to the job as he does his part to help Mount Union succeed as a place to live and work.

“Mount Union has some of the best assets I’ve seen in a small town,” he said. “They just need to be released.”

He continued: “I’m going to do nothing but focus on the future and when there’s a problem or an issue, I’ll be there day or night.”

Mount Union has gone without a borough manager since 2010 when Eric Powell, who assumed duties at the start of 2004, was let go; the borough’s last police chief, Nick Richtscheit, was let go the same year as Powell.

The monthly meeting begin with solicitor Larry Lashinsky reporting council held an executive session Monday, Dec. 3, for personnel matters. Council member Mike Shields then made a motion recommending Miller for the job of manager and police chief, a move seconded by Nancy Lynn.

Council president Carol Kuklo said Monday’s executive meeting was called to discuss the option of hiring Miller to a dual position and to review his qualifications. She said seven of council’s nine members attended the session.

Kuklo said she wanted council to have time to process the proposal ahead of possible vote Wednesday and also hoped to cut down on the running time of Wednesday’s public meeting by holding the executive session on an earlier date.

Council member Mary Crawly expressed displeasure with the way council handled the matter and said she believes the borough should have advertised the position. Crawly said she was unaware of the executive session and said her cell phone records will prove no one tried to reach her.

Kuklo and borough secretary Cindy Hobbs said they both tried to reach Crawly but the number they had for her was not operational.

“There is no unity here,” Crawly said. “Everybody just does what they want to do underhanded. It should be advertised, others should have the opportunity to apply.”

Lashinsky said council is under no legal obligation to advertise the position of borough manager. Melissa Melewsky, media legal counsel with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, says a governing body like a borough council can call for an executive session provided certain steps are taken.“The Sunshine Act requires all elected officials to get at least 24 hours notice of the date, time, location and purpose of the meeting; if not, it’s a violation of the Sunshine Act,” Melewsky said, adding notice should be given in writing. She noted “the public is not similarly entitled” to receive notice.

Council member Joan Rogers said she, too, has her concerns, namely the consolidation of power.

She told Miller, “I think you are a very good candidate but with you being borough manager and chief of police, that’s too much power for anyone in a small town.”

Shields said he saw the proposal as a way to resolve two issues that have been weighing on the borough.

“We’ve been looking for a borough manager and the department has been looking for a fifth officer,” he said.

Voting “yes” were Shields, Lynn, Mary Hancock, Gary Kuklo and Carol Kuklo; “no” votes were cast by Crawly, Rogers, Marlee Russell and Wayne Querry.

Querry initially said he wished to abstain because he wanted to think over the matter but was informed by Lashinsky that his reason did not meet the guidelines for abstention.

“I like to think about stuff,” Querry said. “I’m not for this guy or against him.”

In July, Querry made a motion recommending the borough advertise for a manager; the motion failed but council committed to researching the matter. Querry made an identical motion in August, which was defeated in a tie-breaker vote.

Council still needs to solidify a job description and other job-related details. Council is slated to meet again Wednesday, Dec. 19, starting at 5 p.m. with a public hearing on a dangerous structure; a voting session will follow at which point council will act on those details and several other business items.


Local
Father, son to lead TMSB

A father and son team from the Six Mile Run area were selected as president and vice president of the Tussey Mountain School Board of Education during a combined reorganization and regular meeting Wednesday evening in the high school administrative conference room in East Saxton.

James L. Hodge was unanimously re-elected to the president’s post while his son, James A. “Jimmy” Hodge was elected vice president by a roll call vote of 6-1. Both men represent the school district’s Area II consisting of Coaldale Borough and Broad Top Township, both in Bedford County. James L. Hodge has been serving as board president since October.

Voting in favor of Jimmy Hodge’s nomination were board members John Baughman, Wes Crooks, Jimmy Hodge, Brenda Folk, James L. Hodge and new board member Brad Rouser. Also nominated for the position was board member Harry Watkins who received one vote from board member Adam Baker. Watkins had been occupying the vice president seat.

Missing from the voting segment of the board meeting was Watkins and Roy McCabe. Watkins arrived later in the meeting.

In other reorganizational business, the board agreed to continue to hold work sessions at 7 p.m. the second Monday of the month followed by the regular monthly board meeting at 7 p.m. the third Monday of the month. All meetings will take place in the administrative conference room.

It was noted that on occasion it may be necessary to change the regular meeting date which will be advertised. Also, special meetings may be called and advertised.

President Hodge announced board committees will be appointed next month.

Also under reorganizational business, the board re-appointed board member Roy McCabe as the Pennsylvania School Board Association liaison/legislative representative for 2019.

The board appointed school board secretary Lisa Rankin as temporary board president who conducted the reorganization business.

By unanimous vote, the board hired Tussey middle school principal Matt McCahan as the district’s part-time contracted athletic director for 2018-19 at a cost of $20,000, pro-rated. His hiring was recommended by the athletic and personnel committees.

During the public comment period former board member Vivian Foster of the Six Mile Run area asked the board what steps were being taken to rectify an apparent air quality problem in the basement of the Tussey Mountain Elementary School (former Saxton-Liberty Elementary Center).

Foster said she has heard from several people “on the street” that the air quality problem “is getting worst.” She added that earlier efforts to improve the ventilation system in the basement haven’t solved the problem.

Responding to Foster’s comments, Dr. Gary Dawson, district superintendent, said he is still waiting on feedback from maintenance personnel about the air quality problem and will move forward with a solution as soon as possible. Foster suggested that the school board consider having the air tested.

Under personnel matters, the board accepted with regret a letter of resignation from head volleyball coach Kelly Lazor.

The board also approved the following: Aaron Martin and Christian Neville, both volunteer drama advisers and Chris Carrier, Roger Conley, Mitchell Hall and Quinton Hixon, all volunteer wrestling coaches.

The board agreed to add Nancy Swope and Lindsey Brode to the district’s substitute support staff for 2018-19.

The board also approved:

— the transfer of $20,000 from the general fund to the athletic fund to pay for several winter sports expenses.

— four building use requests for the elementary school and one for the high school.

— four field trip requests and four conference requests.


Local
JVSB leadership retained

Leadership and committee positions will remain the same for the Juniata Valley School Board in the new year as members held their annual reorganization meeting Wednesday evening.

After board members selected Tim McCrum as temporary chairman, Dennis Johnson was elected to remain as board president, while board member Aden Russell was selected to remain as board vice president.

For committee posts, Russell, along with board member Shelley Houck will remain as representatives for the Joint Operating Committee for the Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center.

Board member Krista Reihart will also serve as representative for the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11, and Johnson will serve as a representative for the Pennsylvania School Board Association.

School board members also approved committee meetings to be held at 6:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month, with the exception of June, July, August and December, and board meetings to be held at 6:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month.

Approval was also given for the board president, vice president, secretary and treasurer to sign general fund checks and for the president or treasurer to sign payroll checks.

Regular business was also conducted Wednesday evening, and board members approved a resolution where they would opt out of approving a preliminary budget in February.

Brad Howe, district business manager explained what that means.

“This means that we don’t plan to raise taxes above the index, which is 3.1 percent this year,” he said. “This would mean we don’t have to approve a preliminary budget in February.”

Howe also explained that preliminary budgets prepared that early are usually not accurate because there are things that could impact the budget that can’t be predict that could impact the budget.

Board members also approved:

— a letter of agreement between UPMC and the Juniata Valley School District.

— the purchase of 30 used Chromebooks and a charging station from Huntingdon Area School District at a cost of $750.


Local
Officials attend program launch

Business and county government leaders from Huntingdon, Bedford and Fulton counties joined forces for a press conference Wednesday at the Olde Bedford Brewery to introducing future collaboration plans through Startup Alleghenies (SA).

The program, designed to connects entrepreneurs with coaches, was launched in the tri-county area with a POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) after a successful start in Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties.

Two new SA entrepreneur coaches, former Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI) operations manager Debra Clark of Huntingdon and Andrew Trexler of Bedford, were introduced.

Coaches will help new startups within the county with various aspect of their business, including writing a business plan, naming a business, defining the product, registering a business, choosing the appropriate legal business structure, choosing a location, building markets, discovering customers and employees, financing the business and other mentoring and networking opportunities.

Clark will serve as critical contact and entry-points for local entrepreneurs as they come into the community, connecting them to partners and networking possibilities that SA offers. She will cover both Huntingdon and Fulton counties while employed by HCBI.

She was able to connect with the other entrepreneur coaches and business leaders while at Wednesday’s event.

“There were a couple entrepreneurs there who were part of the program last year and shared their experience,” Clark said. “Overall, it was a good day for networking. I had the opportunity to speak with them and see how the program has truly helped them and their business.”

Commissioners from all three counties attended, as well as leaders from HCBI and Bedford County Development Association (BCDA).

Details regarding the expansion of the SA program were announced, including TechCelerator in Somerset, where Ben Franklin Technology Partners will be offering the eight weeks of training relating to technology-related startups within the county.

The “8-Week Startup Accelerator” will begin Jan. 22, providing up to $10,000 to six selected companies toward their initial legal, accounting or customer discovery costs. At the end of the program, the groups will have the chance to pitch their business plans to an interviewee panel, the winner or winners of the program splitting $10,000. Only six companies who apply before the Jan. 10 deadline will be chosen for the free program.

Clark expressed her excitement at the possibility of the TechCelerator coming to Huntingdon.

“It is kind of like a mini shark tank,” she said. “There was one held up in Altoona a little bit ago, and the idea is to put a panel of local professionals together to hear around six entrepreneurs from around the region make pitches for their business. So far, the entire program has helped more than 100 startups, created 220 jobs and has $2.5 million invested in those businesses. We have discussed where we might host it here in Huntingdon, but nothing final yet.”

Reflecting on her overall experience, Clark is excited to see how SA will help local entrepreneurs.

“It was a good opportunity for me to just meet with people and discuss future ideas,” she said. “This program is a good initiative and a great way to network.”

For more information on SA, visit startupalleghenies.com.


Local
Holiday festivities planned in Mount Union

The Mount Union community stands ready to usher in the winter holidays and will kick off the season this weekend with a collection of events sure to bring out the Christmas spirit in all.

This weekend’s schedule includes such longstanding Bricktown traditions like the Festival of Trees and Wreaths, the Kiwanis Club’s Christmas Bazaar, the Santa Parade and the Festival Chorus Concert.

The lineup also includes an open house at the Bricktown Model Railroaders’ headquarters and a pancake breakfast with Frosty the Snowman.

Festivities begin Friday and conclude Sunday.

The Festival of Trees and Wreathes, a three-day event held at the Mount Union Presbyterian Church at the corner of Shirley and Division streets, opens its doors at 10 a.m. Friday with not only a display of festive greens but musical performances by area youth.

The Mount Union Area High School jazz band and the select chorus will perform at noon followed by the sixth grade band and chorus at 1 p.m. Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, the festival will host a recital featuring local private studio students.

In addition, the festival, celebrating its 24th year, will also serve as a backdrop for the annual Little Mr. and Miss Mount Union pageant, starting at 6 p.m. Friday.

Trees and wreaths will be on view from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday. The public is encouraged to come see the trees and cast votes for their favorites.

Cathy and Norman Wilson have been coordinating the festival since year one. Cathy said she continues to be impressed by residents’ holiday creations.

“Every year the entries are different and they are all amazing,” she said. “It does demonstrate how creative people are and it expresses their feelings about the season.”

The festival is sponsored by the Mount Union Area Chamber of Commerce, Mount Union Area Historical Society, the Huntingdon County Arts Council, with additional support from the Sons of Italy and community members. She said this year, the event has received some extra promotional support from Heather Himes and the Mount Union Community Library.

Wilson said she counts the Mount Union Area School District among the festival’s supporters as well.

“They allow their students to participate and that is a big deal,” she said. “So many parts of our community come together to support the activities that go on this weekend.”

The Mount Union Area Kiwanis Club’s Christmas Bazaar, held in the basement level of the First United Methodist Church at 15 W. Shirley St., is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The bazaar, marking its 37th year, features the work of local craft vendors plus homemake food. Santa will stop by for a visit from noon to 2 p.m.

The Bricktown Model Railroaders Association will host its annual open house Saturday and Sunday at its headquarters in a century-old brick warehouse at 300 W. Small St. BMRA members welcome the public to check out their latest renovations and to enjoy their temporary model railroad displays.

“We’re excited to share our progress with the community this year,” George Sarra, BMRA’s public relations director, said. “We have more of our trains running for this Christmas and we also have heat this year so it should be very comfortable for visitors.”

Open house hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus or Kris Kringle in some circles, will ride into Bricktown onboard a Mount Union Fire Co. truck as the guest of honor in the annual holiday parade, sponsored by the Mount Union Area Chamber of Commerce.

The parade starts at 4 p.m. and will feature Mount Union Area High School’s marching Trojan band. Santa will disembark at the First United Methodist Church, site of the community Christmas tree, to visit with children.

Saturday’s holiday activities start with Flapjacks with Frosty, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, at Bricktown Events, 28 W. Shirley St. Sponsored by the Mount Union Wesleyan Church, the event is open to the public and features a pancake breakfast, music by the Wesleyan Church Worship Team, photos with Frosty the Snowman, as well as games, crafts and face-painting, plus gifts for children 12 and under while supplies. And everything is free of charge.

Weekend festivities will conclude with the Mount Union Festival Chorus Concert, “NOEL,” starting at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church.

The chorus, under the direction of William Lamberson, has been rehearsing since September and will perform a selection of both old and new Christmas carols. The Festival Ringers, a handbell choir, will also perform.

Upcoming events

Community Christmas events in Mount Union don’t stop this weekend; there’s more ahead:

The Mount Union Community Library will host a children’s party at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The Bricktown Book Club will hold a Christmas party starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the Mount Union Community Library.

MUASD families are reminded of upcoming holiday performances: junior high band and chorus concert, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13; senior high band and chorus concert, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17; Shirley Township elementary School concert, 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18; Mount Union-Kistler Elementary School concert, 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19; Mapleton-Union Elementary School concert, 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20. All concerts, including elementary school groups, will be held at Mount Union Area High School.